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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                       75
sanka?...   Chicken  broth!...  Look  how much   they've
brought already. Enough for a wedding! What will you
think of next?"fLCJL ASHOKNAGAR, HYB,
"Vasilisa, you ought to be ashamed of yourself for
talking in that woman's way!" came the old man's cracked
voice again. "You yourself have two sons at the front,
and yet you talk in this silly way! This man, you might
say, has crippled himself for us, has shed his blood-----"
"I don't want his blood! My sons are shedding their
blood for me! It's no use asking. I said I won't ... and
I won't!"          Hi *,,        Q^^r?  5
The dark silhoi^tc^-ef-aw^aged figure glided to the
door and as it opened a beani of spring light burst into
the dugout, so dazzling that Alexei shut his eyes tight
and groaned. The old man hastened to his side: fA L^
"Weren't you asleep, Alexei? Did you hear this tali?
Did you? But don't condemn her, Alexei, don't condemn
her for her words. Words are the shell; the kernel in it
is sound. Do you think she begrudges the chicken? Not
a bit, Alyosha! The Germans wiped out her whole family
and it was a big family, there were ten of them. Her
oldest son is a colonel. The Germans found this out, and
the whole of the colonel's family, all except Vasilisa,
were taken to the ditch at the same time. And they burned
their home. You can imagine what it means for a woman
at her age to be left without kith and kin! All that she
has left is one chicken. It's a cunning bird, let me tell
you, Alyosha. In the very first week the Germans cleaned
up all the chickens and ducks. They are very fond of
poultry, those Germans are. All you could hear was:
'Chicken, Ma, chicken!' But this one escaped! It's not
an ordinary chicken, I tell you! It would do for a circus!
When a fascist came into the yard, she would get into
the loft and remain there quite still as if she wasn't there
at all. But if any of our people came into the yard, she
was not a bit disturbed. How she knew the difference,
goodness only knows! And so it was the only chicken left
in the whole village. And for her cunning we named her
Meresyev dozed with open eyes; he had grown ac-
customed to that in the forest. His silence must have
disquieted Grandad Mikhail. Busying himself around the